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Destinations: Arizona Strip - North Rim of the Grand Canyon Short Cuts
North Rim of the Grand Canyon—Part 1

By: John Stewart - July 1, 2001

Trail Repairs
Trail Repairs
Photo By: Sue Holden

It was Saturday morning and the glittering neon lights of Las Vegas were dull in the morning desert sun as members and guests of the Tierra del Sol 4 Wheel Drive Club of San Diego converged at the Crystal Ice Plant. Now was the time to fill the coolers with ice. The next opportunity would be Wednesday and the temperature was edging towards the century mark. Coolers full, we pulled onto I-15. Next stop was Mesquite, Nevada and the last chance for gas until Wednesday. With full coolers, full gas tanks and reduced tire pressure we headed for the Arizona Strip, gateway to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Turning onto White Rock Road, the fifteen vehicle Tierra del Sol convoy left the pavement behind. From here on it would be dusty gravel roads to our destination, Twin Point, and evening margaritas while watching the sunset over the Grand Canyon.

As the climb progressed up Lime Kiln Canyon, the desert sage gave way to Pinyon Pines. During the climb, the first of the problems surfaced when steam began rising from my hood. The high desert temperatures combined with the slow speed uphill climb and inefficient cooling system to cause the first mechanical failure, an overheated radiator. A short pause to cool down and refill and the trip was resumed. Reaching the summit, we were treated to a panoramic view of the Shivwits Plateau and the western reaches of the Grand Canyon. The dusty road wound down the hill and soon was lost amid a forest of Joshua Trees and wildflowers in full bloom. It was in this section where our guide in his CJ-7 encountered a cloud of smoke rolling out from under his dash. A shorted wire was soon bypassed and as all systems appeared to be working, we continued. We still had over five hours of travel time before reaching our destination.

Shivwits Plateau
Shivwits Plateau
Photo By: John Stewart
Joshua Trees and Wild Flowers
Joshua Trees and Wild Flowers
Photo By: John Stewart

The open grassy knolls turned into rocky fields and a canyon wall began rising from one side of the road while the canyon floor fell away from the other side. We were entering Hidden Canyon. The road wound through the canyon crossing the dry creek numerous times. The scenic beauty of the canyon was spectacular. The colors of the vegetation and the rock combined to create a lulling sense of serenity as we drove along the dusty road. Without warning, Hilton in his Grand Cherokee became a victim of in-attention. His front tire hit a rock along side of the road, quickly followed by his rear tire hitting the same rock resulting in one bent rim and two sidewall tears. Our forward progress halted while we surveyed the damage. While some took this opportunity for a lunch stop, others set to work helping change the tire with the bent rim. The front tire was quickly changed and the rear tire was patched with the aid of three tire plugs.

Hidden Canyon
Hidden Canyon
Photo By: John Stewart

As our journey to the campsite continued, the desert vegetation was replaced by Pinyon Pines giving testimony of a rising elevation. The road past several corrals and waters tanks. Cattle grazed on the scant vegetation along the dry stream bed. Again, forward progress was halted as Dan in his CJ-5 and Dick in his CJ-7 experienced vapor lock as the afternoon sun raised the canyon temperature past the century mark. After short rest periods, we were on the move. Upon reaching Mount Dellenbaugh Road, we were almost 35 miles from our campsite at Twin Point. Once on Mount Dellenbaugh Road, the caravan quickly spread out to avoid the heavy dust cloud generated in the dry windless afternoon. It was late afternoon and everyone was eager to reach the campsite before sunset.

Mount Dellenbaugh Road, also known a Main Street, winds through the heart of the Shivwits Plateau stretching south from St. George, Utah to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Whitmore Canyon, Parashant Canyon and Andrus Canyon branch southeast towards the Grand Canyon. Grazing cattle and sagebrush dotted the wide grassy valleys of the Shivwits Plateau. Pine trees were in abundance on the hill sides. There was scant sign of human settlement.

A gate with a sign announced we were about to enter the Lake Mead National Recreation area. This was Twin Point and our campsite was about eight miles ahead. The wide graded road narrowed and began a winding path through the trees. A past fire had left many dead trees standing in its wake. On this day, the ground beneath the dead trees was alive with the lush orange blooms of mallow. We inched along and waited while the full size trucks negotiated the tight turns. Hilton’s tire plugs began leaking and required several stops to keep the tire full of air. An occasional break in the trees, offered a breathtaking view of the Sanup Plateau almost 2000 feet below. An hour after entering the gate, we reached the end of the road and a truly spectacular view of the Grand Canyon and Sanup Plateau. There was a flurry of activity as weary travelers set up tents and ate supper. The problems of the day were laid aside while everyone enjoyed cool margaritas and watched the sunset over the Grand Canyon. Tomorrow would be time enough to assess damages and make necessary repairs.

Sanup Plateau from Twin Point looking south
Sanup Plateau from Twin Point looking south
Photo By: John Stewart
Sanup Plateau from Twin Point looking east
Sanup Plateau from Twin Point looking east
Photo By: John Stewart

Over breakfast, plans were laid for repairs. Larry, who had remained outside the NRA, had a numerous burned wires and a dead alternator. Hilton needed tires. His tire was soon patched (five plugs this time) and he began the 70 mile trip to St. George. He was accompanied by two other vehicles, Joe and Sue Holden and their son Joe with Bob Greenwald as a passenger. As it was, Hilton did not make it to the gate before his patched tire gave out. While Bob remained with Larry to repair burned wires, the other two vehicles headed for St. George to find tires and an alternator. The rest of us settled down to a relaxing day, alternately napping and gazing at the scenic beauty of the Grand Canyon while waiting for the return of the others and the evening community potluck. Long after the scraps of the potluck were cleared and before the last of the twilight tuned to darkness, the repair crew returned. Larry had a new alternator and Hilton had two new tires. Tomorrow our journey would continue.

Stay Tuned for Part Two

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